Thursday, 27 January 2011

Leg of Lamb stuffed with Feta, Olives and Herbs

I was lucky enough to receive a very generous birthday present last year of a days cookery course at Leiths School of Food and Wine in West London. The course I choose was knife skills and butchery. We learnt how to prepare 3 joints of meat for the oven and the best bit was being able to bring them home afterwards! The first piece of meat we tackled was tunnel boning a leg of lamb, this is something you could easily ask your butcher to do for you.
If you want to do it yourself, there isn't really a secret, it is just a matter of following the bones with you knife and working round the joints. Make sure you have a sharp knife, hold the joint with one had and the knife with your other, always cut away from the hand holding the meat. Starting at one end of the leg, scrape and cut the flesh away from the bone and then work from the other end. Cut the skin as little as possible at the shank end. Make sure you get the knee cap out as well as the leg bones, also remove any glands from the meat which are translucent grey nodules about the size of a hazel nut. While you are there you can also remove any excess fat from the outside and inside of the cavity.
Tunnel boning, rather than cutting the leg open means that you can stuff the leg and it needs minimal effort to secure everything before roasting.

So on Sunday I decided it was time I cooked the leg of lamb that I have had prepared and stored in the freezer since November! I had a look online and choose a Gordon Ramsay recipe I found on the times website. His recipe for the stuffing has tonnes of ingredients and the juices that poured out of the joint while it cooked made a very strong tasting but totally delicious gravy. I served the lamb with simple Boulangere potatoes and broccoli so as to avoid adding any more big flavours to the meal. The lamb made a very well received January Sunday roast for 6 and the leftovers, a couple of excellent Monday lunch box sandwiches.
Stuffed leg of lamb is definitely a recipe I would make again, Jamie Oliver's recipe involves olives, anchovies and pine nuts so maybe I'll try that one next time!

Ingredients (serves 6-8):
2-2.5kg boned leg of lamb
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
200g Feta cheese, chopped into 1cm cubes
Zest of 1 lemon
4 semi-dried tomatoes in oil, chopped (I used about 50g)
50g pitted kalamata olives, chopped
Big handful of spinach leaves, chopped
3 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
1 large handful of flat leaf parsley, chopped
1 large handful of mint leaves, chopped
4 slices of pancetta (I used a few more than that)
Olive oil, to drizzle
Generous splash of red wine

Pre-heat the oven to 220C.
Place the lamb on a chopping board and lightly score the fat in a criss cross pattern. Rub salt and pepper all over and inside the cavity.
Mix together the feta, lemon zest, tomatoes, olives, spinach, garlic and herbs. Spoon the mixture into the cavity of the lamb and press with the back of a spoon to pack as much in as possible.
Wrap both open ends of the lamb with pancetta to secure the filling, then tie with kitchen string at intervals (I put string in both directions, length ways over the pancetta to keep it in place and then a couple more pieces around the joint).
Roast in the oven for 20 minutes and then reduce the heat to 190C and roast for 20 minutes per 500g for medium cooked meat (mine took 1 hour 40 minutes).
Half an hour before the lamb is done, pour a generous splash of wine into the pan and continue roasting. Check the lamb 15 minutes before it is ready by piercing the centre with a metal skewer, hold it there for a few seconds and then it should feel warm against your hand when removed.
Take the lamb out of the oven and allow to rest for 15 minutes before carving. Serve with the juices from the pan (the juices were delicious but a bit lumpy so I put the pan on the hob, added more wine and reduced it, I added some flour mixed with water to help thicken and it was a lot more uniform in texture and gravy like).

For the Boulangere Potatoes (serves 6):
2 Onions, thinly sliced
A few sprigs of thyme
2 tbsp olive oil
1.5kg floury potatoes (I used Maris Piper), thinly sliced
425ml veg stock (i made this from Marigold Bouillon)

Heat the oven to 200C.
Fry the onions and thyme sprigs in the oil until softened and lightly coloured (about 5 mins).
Spread a layer of the sliced potatoes over the base of a 1.5 litre oiled gratin dish.
Sprinkle over some of the onions and continue layering, finishing with a layer of potatoes. Pour over the stock and bake for 50-60 minutes until the top is golden and crisp.

Best eaten with appreciative housemates and served with a glass of red wine.

Rachael x

Thursday, 20 January 2011

Rainbow Cake

Last weekend we were celebrating the birthday of one of the ladies of the Keston Kitchen. The party theme that Julia decided upon was 'the skys the limit' (themes and fancy dress are compulsory at all Keston parties). We were most impressed with the assortment of pilots, clouds, deities, birds and other creative costumes that turned up at our door. The birthday cake had to of course also fit the theme, it didn't take long before I decided a rainbow cake was called for, with a different colour for each layer of the cake. I consulted Abbie (office baking expert) and she advised using the trusty Madeira cake recipe which I had used for the Keston kitchen cake in November as it is nice and solid and easy to pile high.
I remembered that Philippa (friend from school) had put pictures on facebook of a rainbow cake she had made, she advised using food colouring paste rather than the normal liquid stuff which isn't as effective (i tried making a green velvet cake with normal food colouring once but it came out rather grey!). Apparently Hobby Craft stocks the pastes but I don't have one near me so I bought some online instead, you don't need to use much so they will last me for years.

Rainbow Madeira Cake

The following ingredients will make 2 layers of your cake (so you will need 3 times the ingredients if making 6 layers), my layers were quite big so if I made it again I might use less cake mixture.

175g unsalted butter (at room temperature)
175g caster sugar
3 medium eggs
225g self raising flour
Zest of 1 lemon
Pinch of salt
Splash of milk
A little bit of food colouring paste (i reckon about 1/4 tsp per layer), the brand I used was Wilton and the colours I used for the 6 layers were red-red, golden yellow, leaf green, royal blue, violet and I made orange by adding both red and yellow.

Assuming you make two layers at a time, line two 7inch cake tins with baking parchment and pre-heat the oven to 170C.
Cream the butter, sugar and lemon zest together with a fork making sure the ingredients are fully combined and the mixture has a paler appearance than when you started.
Whisk in the eggs. Fold in the flour a bit at a time. Then add milk a little at a time until your mixture has a soft drop consistency.
Put half the mixture in another bowl and then add a different colour paste to each bowl. The food colouring paste is gloopy in texture so I just added it a drop at a time until I decided the batter was a suitable shade.
Scrape the mixtures into separate cake tins (which you lined), make sure the mixture is level in the tins so it rises evenly and bake in the oven for about 30 minutes. When cooked a skewer will come out clean, don't worry if you cakes look an odd colour as when cut open their true glory will be revealed!

Ju was busy in the kitchen in the lead up to the party and I didn't want her to cotton on to what I was making so I did some serious mid-night baking on the friday and hid the cake before going to bed. I then waited until the party was in full swing on saturday, banned the birthday girl from the kitchen and recruited Fern, Ceri and Tessa to help with the icing.
I used a thin layer of strawberry jam and whipped cream to glue the layers together and then we slapped on the blue cream cheese icing (cream cheese, butter and icing sugar). As I said it was quite late on in the party and I didn't measure the ingredients so the sky blue icing was somewhat runny but it did manage to hide the cakes beneath. I topped the cake with a yellow sun made from roll out icing and a few white clouds on the side which immediately started to slide downwards!

This cake was somewhat of an undertaking but definitely worth it just for the look on Julia's face when she sliced into the tower of cake having no idea what was inside. It also went down well with the rest of the party too!

Rachael x

Thursday, 13 January 2011

Posh Chocolate Fridge Cake

Posh Chocolate Fridge Cake by Charlotte x

It all started one wintery day before Christmas. The light was low and the snow was thick underfoot. My phone rang and it was my sister, asking if off the top of my head I knew the ingredients and quantities to make fridge cake. I did not. However, thanks to new smart phone technology I located a recipe and read it out to her. By the end of the call my mind was made up, I was also making fridge cake.

We had a local Christmas Fayre coming up to show off our shiny calendars, so I thought I'd make the fridge cake for that event. Of course I had to make a batch to try out at home that particular day, as sometimes I'm just a wee bit impatient. I picked up the ingredients, no expenses spared, Green & Blacks chocolate all the way, ginger cookies and cranberries and headed home to create something sweet and nice. Needless to say the baking session, making session really, as there is no actual baking involved, was a success. Since that day I have made the recipe at least three more times - its a great one for gifts, neatly packed squares in a glass jar will go down a treat with friends, family members and work colleagues.

Here's the recipe - tailored for winter but easily adjustable.

300g chocolate (I used Green & Blacks 85% cocoa and the one with ginger bits in)
150g butter
Splash cherry brandy (or anything else you happen to have a the back of the booze cupboard)
1 stem ginger, finely chopped
175g ginger cookies (or digestives), crushed into small chunks in a bag with a rolling pin
100g sultanas
150g dried cranberries
100g dried mixed berries

Melt the chocolate and butter in a bowl over a saucepan of water. Stir in the cherry brandy and chopped stem ginger.
Stir in the ginger cookies, followed by the fruit.
Line a baking tin with clingfilm and then pour in the mixture. You may need to help it spread out and pack it down.
Put in the fridge to cool. When it is cold through you can easily take it out of the tin and cut into small manageable pieces.

Variations: mini marshmallows; glacier cherries; raisins; almonds; hazelnuts; macadamia nuts; dried apricots; pecans; pistachio; meringue pieces... the list goes on.

Share with friends or eat it all to yourself, either way it's going to be good. Enjoy!

Monday, 10 January 2011

Vegetarian Winter Warmer

Apologies for the quiet spell on the blogging front, in the Keston Kitchen we have been rather occupied by the festive season and by selling lots of calendars (thanks to everyone who has bought one so far)!
This is one of my favourite dishes and I thought it would make an ideal January recipe because as well as warming you up, being stuffed full of vegetables, it makes you feel healthy! It is also pretty economical if you make a big vat of it.
The recipe is basically a vegetarian chilli, it comes from the first Leon cook book and is actually called Lee's Hippy Farm Beans. The Leon book is always the first place I look, on a weekend when I fancy making a one-pot wonder, easy to prepare but you need to have the time to allow it to cook nice and slowly.
I made this dish most recently, just before Christmas when Katie (previous guest chef) and Laura (crafty friend who happens to be vegetarian) were staying. There was thick snow on the ground outside but we were snug inside with blankets and bowls of beans.

Lee's Hippy Farm Beans

Serves 4-5 people

Olive oil
1 large aubergine
3 peppers (one yellow, one red, one orange looks pretty)
Ground cumin
1 big onion, roughly chopped
3 big cloves of garlic, roughly chopped
3 assorted fiery chillies (or not so fiery depending on who you are cooking for), roughly chopped
350g cherry tomatoes
1 tin (400g) chopped tomatoes
2 tins beans (ideally one mixed and the other kidney, black bean or pinto)
Linghams Garlic and Chilli Sauce (available at Tesco, Waitrose and most importantly SMBS in East Dulwich)
300g baby spinach, well washed
Rock salt

And also (to serve):
Lime wedges (very important)
More chopped chillies or chilli sauce (I tend to make my chilli on the milder side and let people add more heat if they want it)
Grated cheese and/or sour cream (to counteract all that health)
1 pack of tortillas (I didn't bother with these as it is quite filling and so served with some tortilla chips instead)
3 avocados (if they are in season)

Start by putting 4 tbsp of olive oil in the pan. When the pan is hot, fry the aubergine and peppers for 15 minutes until golden and crisp. Season with salt and cumin, then take them out and put to one side.
Get the empty pan hot again, fry the onion in a bit more olive oil for a few minutes until it browns, then add the garlic and chillies. After a few more minutes add the cherry tomatoes. Again wait a few minutes before adding the tinned tomatoes, aubergine and peppers.
Bring to the boil and add the drained and rinsed beans. Now add a good glug of the chilli sauce. Turn the hob down to a low heat, a gentle simmer, cover the pan for 1/2 an hour, cook uncovered for a further hour; stir regularly. You want a gloopy, unky, smooth texture. Once it is ready, turn off the heat and stir in the spinach well until it is wilted.
You can then serve with as many or few extras as you wish!
Heat the tortillas if you are using them, mash or slice the avocados, wedge the limes, grate the cheese and dollop on the sour cream - yum!

Rachael x